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Study: Facebook Activity Indicative Of Regional Obesity Rates In United States

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File photo of the Facebook homepage. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages)

File photo of the Facebook homepage. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages)

BOSTON (CBS Connecticut) – A recent study found that user activity on the social networking site Facebook from a certain region of the United States could indicate the obesity rates of that region.

Researchers from the Boston Children’s Hospital set out to examine the relationship between Facebook posting topics and geographic location and how those factors related to a population’s health.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, ultimately found that regions with overall healthier populations tended to post more about their positive food and habit choices. Conversely, regions with higher obesity rates were home to people with generally unhealthy interests.

“Activity-related interests across the [United States] and sedentary-related interests across [New York City] were significantly associated with obesity prevalence,” researchers conclusively wrote.

The study was performed by using obesity data gleaned from multiple surveys, including the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. That information – both for the entirety of the United States as well as sections of New York City – was then compared to user interests and posts on Facebook.

According to the abstract summary of the study, a distinct tie was found between Facebook user interests and geography and the health of the populace surrounding them.

“Higher proportion of the population with activity-related interests on Facebook was associated with a significant 12 [percent] … lower predicted prevalence of obese and/or overweight people across [United States] metros and 7.2 [percent] … across NYC neighborhoods,” the study found.

Researchers added, “Conversely, greater proportion of the population with interest in television was associated with higher prevalence of obese and/or overweight people of 3.9 [percent throughout the United States] … and 27.5 [percent in New York City].”

Those involved with the study said they hope to further examine how social media environments influence user health, in the hopes of helping people lead healthier lives.

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